Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), a Quebec housing advocacy group, covered a condo ad in downtown Montreal on Monday with a large poster demanding the provincial government invest into building more social housing. FRAPRU members in cities across Quebec, including the Association des locataires de Sherbrooke, are expected to put up similar posters in the next few days, as the Quebec government prepares to present its latest economic update on Thursday.
There are many people living in the streets in Sherbrooke, according to the association’s spokesperson Mario Mercier, and the problem will only get worse as the pandemic rages on. He said that a lot of property owners are bypassing laws and rules to evict tenants.
Owners often offer to pay for a tenants’ moving fees and in some cases, pay back their last month’s rent in order to get them out of the building, Mercier added. But this is putting people in a precarious situation, he continues, as they can no longer afford rent.
“Since there isn’t a lot of available housing, this practice done by owners will lead to more people on the streets and we’ll see a bigger problem next year, just like we saw in Montreal,” Mercier said.
The spokesperson is referring to Montreal’s ‘tent city’, which began to appear in August and has since grown in size. Many people living in this part of the city on Notre-Dame St. E lost their jobs due to the pandemic and struggled to find a new place to live.
Mercier is worried Sherbrooke is heading in the same direction. Without viable social housing options, more people will end up in the streets, he said. There was an uptick in homelessness last year, Mercier continued, it just wasn’t obvious to everyone in Sherbrooke.
“There are people that say there isn’t a problem in Sherbrooke, but no there is a problem it just wasn’t as visible because people were set up in a hotel,” he said, adding that the stress of finding a place to live during a pandemic is affecting people’s mental health.